Berkeley Bunker

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Berkeley Bunker was born on August 12, 1906, in the old Southern Nevada Mormon settlement of St. Thomas (which is now under the waters of Lake Mead). He was raised on a farm in Moapa Valley. His family moved to Las Vegas when he was a teenager, where he enjoyed indoor plumbing and electricity for the first time.

He was a self-made man, never having earned a college degree. He worked hard driving laundry and dairy trucks prior to his missionary service in Florida and Georgia for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He then worked for a Texaco service station and then opened a tire and auto business. During this time he was elected to three consecutive terms in the Nevada assembly (1936, 1938, 1940). In November 1940, he was appointed to serve in the U.S. Senate. He was the first Las Vegan to serve as a U.S. senator from Nevada. He lost the seat in the 1942 election, but won a representative seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1944. In 1946, he lost another Senate election.

In 1962, he ran for lieutenant governor of Nevada but lost.

In the 1940s, he and his brother Bryan bought Garrison Mortuary and renamed it Bunker Burt Mortuary. After they bought out Lester Burt, they renamed it Bunker Bros. Mortuary. He served as national president of a funeral director’s organization called the Order of the Golden Rule.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he served as a United States bankruptcy trustee. He also led the fundraising drive to finance the Las Vegas Nevada Temple.

Bunker was a member of the Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, Southern Nevada Historical Museum Association, Boy Scouts of America, American Red Cross, American Cancer Society and other civic groups. He was past president of the Las Vegas YMCA and Better Business Bureau. Berkeley Bunker Elementary School named in his honor.

He married his high school sweetheart, Lucile Whitehead, and a year after her death in 1988, he married a longtime friend, Della Lee. He died of complications from pneumonia on January 21, 1999.